Emilia stood by the window looking outside. Hamid sat on the floor among the ripped pictures of them. The evening’s darkness surrounded them. The only light in the room came from the cars passing on the street and the flickering lamp in the corner of the living room.
The silence pressed on their souls, and the smell of pine and baked goods filled their lungs. He lowered his head and hid his face in his palms. She covered her mouth with her sweater.
The Christmas lights from the neighbors’ houses blinked in joyful patterns. Children threw snowballs at each other and ran around the block. Their giggles made Emilia cover her ears and close her eyes for a few seconds. She imagined what life would have been. She took off her engagement ring and looked at it, but it didn’t shine anymore. She remembered when they first met at the farmers’ market in Amsterdam.
“You killed us,” she said.
She held the ring in her palm and then threw it at him. The ring disappeared between the branches of the broken Christmas tree. The pine needles were spread on the floor. The shattered ornaments glimmered every time a car drove through their street.
“You and your stupid Muslim traditions,” Emilia said. “I don’t even understand why you accepted to celebrate Christmas.”
She ran into the bedroom, grabbed a suitcase and shoved his belongings inside. She sat on the suitcase, pressed the zipper together and closed it. She dragged it and dropped it at the front door.
“I want you out,” she said. “Now!”
He didn’t say anything and hid his head between his knees and hugged them with his arms.
Emilia went back in the bedroom and opened her jewelry cabinet. She grabbed an expensive purse, which he had given her two Christmas ago, and stuffed it with all the rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings he had ever given her. The cabinet remained empty; only a turtle broach from her mother stayed.
She threw the purse on top of the suitcase. She then took off her earrings and necklace and stuck them into the bag.
“Here!” she said. “Take the gifts to your wife and children in Pakistan.”
Hamid stood and approached her. She grabbed the vase with roses and threw it toward him. The vase hit him in the chest and broke at his feet. The flowers spread on the floor and the water made rivers between the marble tiles. He took a step back and recovered his breath.
“I left them for you,” he said. “My love for you is bigger than my religion or my traditions, can’t you see?”
Hamid sat on the couch and explained to Emilia that he didn’t love his wife. Their marriage was arranged when they were teenagers. Getting a divorce in Pakistan wasn’t easy, especially because of the Sharia. His family would be shamed out of the city. He could be punished to be killed with stones.
Emilia walked from one side of the room to the other and bit her nails. She kept nodding her head and refused to accept his explanations.
“No,” she said. “You proposed to me while being married. You, you told me you loved me. You asked me to move in with you three years ago, and your son was born last week.”
He begged her to understand that he had an obligation toward his wife, but he didn’t love her.
Emilia opened the front door, dragged the suitcase out to the front porch and threw the purse down the stairs.
“I want you to leave,” she said. “Now!”
She grabbed his coat from the hall stand and threw it outside. He stood but didn’t move.
“Please,” he said. “You said love is all you need. I gave you that. I love you, you can’t deny that.”
The cold filled the house and wind brought snow to her bare feet. She looked away from him.
“Please stop talking and leave,” she said. “You have a family that is waiting for you on the other side of the world.”
Hamid put his shoes on and walked outside. He grabbed his coat and shook the snow off. Emilia slammed the door behind him. She kneeled and burst into a loud cry.
Note: This is a real story and the names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the interviewed person.